NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will make the announcement today at 2 PM EST which will also be broadcast live on NASA's website.
According to The Atlantic, Bridenstine said his decision was influenced by tragedies in NASA's history, including the Apollo 1 fire in 1967, which killed three astronauts during a ground test, as well as the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters in 1986 and 2003.
NASA's next lunar science experiments will arrive at the Moon via a spacecraft built by one of nine private companies - a first for one of the agency's science missions. "That legacy continues as we return to the moon and beyond with CLPS". The Google Lunar X Prize, started in 2007, announced a $20 million award for the first privately funded spacecraft to land on the moon.
Rather than relying on NASA engineers to design the spacecraft, the space agency is publishing the capabilities it needs and requesting proposals from companies to provide those services.
"We are excited to partner with these unbelievable companies at the dawn of a new era of lunar and solar system exploration", stated Moon Express founder & CEO, Bob Richards.
The White House Space Policy Directive 1, signed December 11, 2017, revised United States national space policy to integrate NASA's programs with private sector partners to return to the Moon before continuing on to human exploration of Mars. "These missions pave the way for a human return to the moon, as well as enable human exploration of Mars and beyond". NASA astronauts last landed there in 1972, and no USA spacecraft has touched down on the lunar surface in one piece since then.
The Space Policy Directive was born from the recommendations provided during the first meeting of the new National Space Council, a group under the US Department of Commerce's Office of Space Commerce.
The Commercial Lunar Payload Services contracts have a total value of $2.6 billion over the next 10 years.
"The U.S. return to the moon and we do it faster than you think", - stated in the message.
The McCandless Lunar Lander is named after the late astronaut and former Lockheed Martin employee Bruce McCandless.
He also said NASA hopes to be just one of several customers providing payloads for these commercial missions.
Bridenstine added that he wanted to review the workplace culture in SpaceX and Boeing even before Musk smoked weed publicly. The agency is now working with commercial partners in an effort to produce a lunar transport "market" one created to further enable scientific exploration of our closest celestial neighbor.